A Chilling Short Story
By Rod Gilley
My first short story. This is a dark tale.
Content My be Controversial to Some.
Maggie sat in complete darkness. She rubbed her hands along the smooth surface she was sitting on. Moving her hands along the legs and the back, Maggie guessed she was sitting in a wooden chair.
Her breath rasped from her chest as she stared wide-eyed into the darkness. She called out, “Hello! Is anyone there?”
She got no response.
Sweat rolled into her eyes from her forehead. Part of her thick black hair clung to the sides of her face. The rest fell lifelessly onto her shoulders and down her back.
She trembled as fear enwrapped her like an unseen cloak.
“Hello! Help Me! Where am I?” she yelled. Her voice travelled through the darkness unhindered, landing nowhere.
Maggie wanted to run, find safety, too afraid to just sit there. Not knowing what was in the dark, what dangers lurked in any direction, she would walk cautiously. Maggie tried to stand, but her legs wouldn’t move. She screamed and rocked frantically in the chair.
“Please! Somebody help me!”
Why can’t I move my legs? What is going on?
“Help! Help me, please!” Maggie cried.
Images, at first blurred and indistinguishable, came into focus in her mind. In moments, they were sharp and clear. The images began to move. It was like watching a video inside her head.
Seventh grade detention. Maggie sat there looking out at nothing through the window. She was so angry at Mrs. Godsen. The hateful, fat cow had given her five days of detention. Maggie’s English teacher, Mrs. Godsen, constantly badgered Maggie about nouns, pronouns, prepositional phrases. She shouldn’t have called Mrs. Godsen a bitch, but she felt she was dead on accurate in the description.
Determined to have revenge, Maggie conceived a plot that was sure to reap the results she wanted. Oh, this will be epic, stellar even.
The next morning at school, the bell rang, and she nearly ran from first period math to second period English. Maggie had never done that before. She crept into the classroom before anyone else arrived. At Mrs. Godsen’s desk, she pulled out the chair that had endured the woman’s immense weight the whole school year. She opened the paper bag she was holding, looked inside at the many shards of broken glass she had filled it with. Maggie unfolded the bag, allowing the shards of glass to fall into the seat of the chair. Some pieces were small and fine, but they would penetrate the thin material of the dress Mrs. Godsen was sure to be wearing. Other pieces were bigger, long and sharp, much like small blades of knives.
Maggie rolled the chair up under the desk and cautiously backed up to the door. She turned and left the room, as it would be so unusual for her to be first in the classroom.
At the water fountain, she took a sip and watched as Mrs. Godsen and a small group of students entered the room. As not to miss the rewards of her efforts, Maggie hurried back and stepped into the room. She got to her seat and waited, watching the teacher roam about behind her desk. Mrs. Godsen placed her huge purse on the right and her usual snack box on the left side of her desk. She pulled the seat back as Maggie asked most innocently, “How are you today, Mrs. Godsen?”
Mrs. Godsen frowned at her least favorite student. “Fine.” Then she flopped her weight into the chair and howled in pain and fear. Maggie slumped down in her seat, covering her mouth with both hands, doing all she could do to hide her laughter. Mrs. Godsen rose from the chair fast as she could and ran from the room.
Of all the memories that could have run through my mind, why that one?
Still unable to move her legs, Maggie sat there in the dark, puzzled by the scene she had watched unfold.
“Help me! Somebody!” she cried out.
She closed her eyes and laid her head back against the chair as the video began again.
Maggie stepped out of the building into the cold autumn air. The wind was blowing hard, and she pulled her jacket up around her neck. As she walked across the parking lot, she saw the sign which read, “William Benning High School.” Maggie looked scornfully at the sign for a moment, then turned and continued walking. It was near the end of her senior year. It wouldn’t be long, and she could walk out of this place and never look back.
Walking past the school auditorium entrance, she heard a sound. She turned to see an old trash can that had fallen over in the wind. She noticed something on the roof of the auditorium. Maggie squinted her eyes against the blowing wind to see what it was. It was a girl. Standing still in her puffy blue jacket was Jessica. Her long blonde hair blew wildly in the strong wind.
What in the hell is she doing? Maggie began walking toward the auditorium doors. She had stopped after classes to scan her social media on the library computer. She had come out of school rather late and didn’t see anyone else around as she entered the auditorium.
Since the start of Maggie’s junior year, Jessica had been her best friend. They would often sneak out of their homes late in the evening and go to a party or meet up with some guys. They would get drunk and do whatever they wanted to do.
Maggie shoved hard against the door that led to the roof. The wind howled and pressed the door against her. When she stepped out onto the roof, the full force of the wind blasted against her. She pulled her jacket up tighter and leaned into the wind, walking toward Jessica.
“Hey, you crazy chick, what are you doing?” Maggie had to yell against the noise of the wind. Standing on the ledge of the roof that wasn’t over six inches wide, Jessica heard her and turned to face Maggie.
“Why?” Jessica yelled, while trying to pull her hair from her eyes. The blowing wind and her tears made this hard to do. “Why did you do it?”
Maggie knew well what Jessica was talking about. She thought it was ridiculous that they were going to have this conversation standing on a roof in the cold autumn wind.
“Come down from there, you goofy drama queen! Let’s go get a drink and talk about it!”
“I don’t want to go anywhere with you!” Jessica extended her arm, showing her upturned fist, and extended her middle finger.
Maggie felt herself getting angry. She didn’t want to be out in this frigid wind on a stupid rooftop, and she sure didn’t appreciate Jessica’s gesture!
“I love him!” Jessica yelled.
“Well, apparently, he doesn’t love you so much. I’m sure I’m not the only girl he’s taken to bed in the last month!” Maggie, now quite aggravated, screamed.
Jessica cried, “Bobby wouldn’t do that!”
“Well, he did me, several times!” Maggie had reached the end of her patience. She took a couple of steps toward Jessica.
“Stop! Stay away from me!” Jessica screamed.
“Get your ass down and let’s go get a drink!”
“No! I don’t want to go anywhere with you!”
Maggie had heard enough. “Fine, jump! Save the future welfare some money, stupid tramp!”
Maggie cursed under her breath as she fought against the wind to return to the door. She couldn’t believe it was such a big deal to Jessica. It was only sex. Hell, it wasn’t even that good. She had jumped in the sack with Bobby three or four times out of boredom as much as anything else. No big deal.
Back on the ground floor, Maggie walked out the auditorium doors. Jessica’s body laid sprawled on the concrete walkway. A puddle of blood was quickly growing around her head. Her eyes stared blankly at nothing.
Maggie stepped over Jessica’s small handbag and walked toward her car. When she reached for the car door, she heard a man exclaim, “Holy Cow!” She turned to see the school custodian grasping his cell phone, pounding on the screen.
Dumbass girl, what a waste. Maggie turned the key, unlocking the car door. She got into her car and drove away.
The dark. That and the wooden chair were all that she had. When the video in her head stopped, Maggie opened her eyes to nothing. Tears ran down her face.
She remembered she hadn’t gone to Jessica’s funeral. Maggie had been so angry at Jessica for being so stupid. Maggie had to listen to all the annoying sympathy from the student body and teachers.
Maggie let out a long, scathing scream. She threw her head back and pulled at her hair. That’s enough! I can’t take any more of this!
She yelled, “Come on! Somebody. Help me!”
The darkness was silent.
Maggie pounded on her legs. Why aren’t you working? What the hell is going on? She paused and listened. Had she heard a sound? Was it her imagination? Still, the darkness was silent.
Maggie yelled as the video in her head began again, “No! I’ve had enough! Stop it!”
She turned her head back and forth, opened and closed her eyes. The video continued.
Roughly a year after high school, Maggie met Phillip. She had gotten a job as a waitress in a trashy diner. He was the dishwasher there. He wasn’t the best-looking guy. Phillip wasn’t wealthy, but he was pretty good in bed. So, when he asked, she agreed to be his steady girlfriend.
They could barely afford the rent for the crappy third-floor apartment they shared. Did two rooms that together made up less than 200 square feet actually qualify as an apartment? She had often pondered that question. They could buy a case of beer and a carton of cigarettes per week. Sometimes, they could buy a little grass. Groceries usually amounted to a loaf of bread, a pack of lunchmeat, and a couple cans of soup.
Ok, maybe hitting the night club Friday night wasn’t smart. Maggie frowned as her stomach growled for the fourth time. I hate being broke.
She sat on the bench at the bus stop, across from the grand cathedral. She watched the throng of people enter, each one ready to drop money into the collection plate for their own reasons. She took a hit off the last cigarette they had and passed it back to Phillip. He was thinking whatever thoughts wandered through his mind, watching cars go by. They weren’t waiting for a bus. Their old pickup, sitting a few car lengths away, had about a quarter tank of gas; they simply didn’t have anywhere to go.
Maggie frowned. “I’m bored out of my skull. What do you feel like doing?”
Phillip turned to her and shrugged. Maggie wondered, as she had countless times before, does his brain shut down? Does it go into “Bodily functions only” mode?
“I’m serious. I’m tired of sitting here.” Maggie scolded.
Phillip turned away, went back to looking at passing cars.
Later, Maggie cursed, wiping sweat from her eyes as the people came out of the cathedral. She watched them scornfully as they left. It wasn’t right that they had so much, and she had so little. She sat there on the bench, envy growing inside her. Then she smiled as an idea, a plan, formed in her mind.
“Get up! Come on.” She tugged at Phillip’s arm until he stood. Together, they jogged across the street to the cathedral.
This Sunday afternoon had dragged along in the August heat. Suddenly, the cathedral doors swung open. Maggie and Phillip ran out with several small bags in their hands. They crossed the street and jumped into their old pickup truck.
Phillip had to shove an old priest around a bit, but they had gathered up the day’s take from the collection plates.
The power steering squealed as Phillip pulled the truck from the curb. They sped down the street at a breathtaking 30mph. Just like Bonnie and Clyde. Maggie smiled.
“Wahoo!” Phillip yelled as they turned at the next corner. “Girl, I’m gonna buy you a steak dinner tonight! How much did we get?”
Maggie started counting the money. There were so many $20 bills, $50 bills too! After counting them, she started adding up all the tens.
Phillip must have thought it was smart to get out of town. He drove the pickup down a route that was a decently wide two-lane road. The truck rolled along at its top speed of roughly 60mph.
“Two thousand, one hundred, and sixty-three dollars!” Maggie yelled! Excitement blazed through her entire body like lightning. Phillip howled in joy as he reached over and buried his hand in the bag.
“Wahoo!” he yelled again as he tossed the wad of bills into the air. Maggie laughed, grasping two handfuls of the bills. Neither of them noticed the 18-wheeler blazing toward them in the oncoming lane. Neither of them realized, in the excitement, Phillip had driven quite far over the yellow line. Maggie heard a blazing horn, then everything went black.
Blood poured from the gash in her forehead, filling her eyes. Maggie wiped the blood away as best she could. She lay in the ditch on the side of the road with her long black hair soaked in blood. She couldn’t hear anything but a strange buzzing in her ears.
Maggie finally cleared her eyes well enough to see she was lying in a ditch. Oh my god, we must have had a wreck! She took a ragged breath and called out to Phillip. No response.
She wanted to sit up, look around, and see what had happened. Maggie couldn’t move. Her legs hurt, a rather intense burning. She wondered for a moment if she was on fire. Looking in a direction she felt was down, then around her, she saw no flames. She sighed in relief.
She rubbed her hands down from her breasts to her waist and back. God, I’m soaking wet. She looked at her hands, which were dripping with blood. Man, I’m hurt bad!
She yelled, at least she thought she yelled, “Phillip! Where are you?”
The burning in her legs was becoming unbearable. She rubbed her hands down her torso, past her waist, down her hips, “Oh God, I don’t have any legs!” Her eyes closed.
Maggie’s head hung slumped forward as the video stopped. She sat in the wooden chair gasping for air, crying in the dark.
Did I die in that ditch? Where am I now? Doesn’t seem like Heaven, not a burning lake of fire either. Where am I? Maggie raised her head and looked around. Still, total darkness surrounded her. She didn’t hear anything. She thought of calling out, then realized that had done no good.
How long have I been here? Still sweating, still rasping for breath, she sat in the wooden chair.
It’s awful hot here. The thought made her cringe.
Finally, she heard something. It was the sound of something rolling across the floor. Whatever that something was, it tapped softly at the front left leg of the chair she sat in. Wide-eyed, she looked all around her. The dark. That was all to be seen.
Maggie rubbed her useless legs, bent over, and rubbed her hands down to her ankles. She allowed her left hand to venture toward the wooden leg of the chair. She felt the object that rested there. It was smooth, cylindrical. She grasped it and sat up. Rubbing her hands along the object, she found it was a flashlight.
Still scared, she wasn’t sure she wanted to. Maggie pressed the button on the side, which lit the flashlight. She pointed the beam of light out in front of her. She gasped!
There were rows and rows of people sitting in wooden chairs. She moved the beam of light around her. There were people sitting with their eyes closed, hands resting on their laps.
“Why didn’t any of you answer me!” she yelled.
None of them responded.
She moved the beam of light from one face to the other. They all appeared to be alive. None of them acknowledged her. She called out to them. Sometimes, she cussed, other times, she begged, moving the light from one face to another.
The beam of light grew dim. Maggie shook the flashlight a few times, which seemed to brighten the beam of light briefly. But in the end, the light went out. She dropped the flashlight on the floor.
She pondered why the people just sat there. Are they all watching videos of their own? Are they afraid to speak or reach out to the person closest to them? If this was hell, some of them would be rapists, murderers.
“I’m sorry for the things I’ve done. Truly, I am sorry. Please let me leave this place.” Maggie spoke with her head down and eyes closed. There was no response.
Was this a room with a thousand people sitting in wooden chairs? Or was this a wide-open range with millions of people sitting in wooden chairs? Maggie had no idea.
She was however, beginning to understand her fate.
In this crowd of people, she would sit all alone, forever… In the dark.